I grew up with riding my bike alongside my dad as he trained for marathons during my childhood, which influenced my desire to begin a lifelong career of running at the age of 12. Running was a sport I could find myself in, connect with countless others around the world, compete against myself and build a whole new network of a family. As my life has changed into a working mom, my running and fitness goals have changed too. For 2016 my goals included running 1000 miles for the year (first time since my collegiate running days) and compete in my first 50k ultra marathon trail race. I was pumped up about these goals as my love for trail running had grown over the years and this was a new challenge to embark on.
I started off the year with a pulled achilles, then slipped and fell on a bridge and hit my tailbone that set me back on my mileage. As I was healing and gaining miles back, I continued on my training plan and was back on track. I ran a 30k trail race as a start to my official training for my 50k on June 5th, then six days later, my goals would have to change dramatically.
I woke up at 3:30 in the morning on June 11th, 2016 with excruciating head and neck pain, then quickly became dizzy and numb on the right side of my body. I knew this wasn’t something I could cure on my own, so I called out to my husband to call 911 as I knew I needed medical attention. Doctors weren’t quite sure what was happening to me at first as I still had most function in my body and was communicating, until my whole right side lost all function and I was beginning to have trouble breathing. It was then that doctors put me under to stabilize me and could see that I was having a stroke.
How does a perfectly healthy 31 year old female, with absolutely zero risk factors have a stroke? This is the question that still boggles my mind and my doctors. My specific stroke, which was a right vertebral artery dissection, is generally caused by extreme neck trauma. Still mind boggled because I hadn’t really experienced any trauma. I had just ran a 30k trail race and been going along business as usual the week prior to my stroke. My only conclusion is that I gave myself whiplash from some extreme violent sneezing during a seasonal allergy attack. But still..seriously?
Nonetheless, I had a stroke. My running and fitness goals changed in an instant and new goals emerged. I would have to learn to walk again, regain my balance, and gain mental and physical strength. Learning to walk again came back to me slowly after a week of intensive therapy at a rehabilitation facility. Being young and healthy helped me get there fairly quickly. I continued to do my own therapy at home, then found an amazing therapist who was an experienced triathlete and has worked for many years with stroke patients, as well as young stroke patients.
Since working with this therapist, I continued to grow stronger both physically and mentally. With guidance, I incorporated underwater jogging and balance work, HIIT workouts in both running and in the weight room, and yoga. I am now almost 10 months post stroke and have competed in a 5k, have an upcoming 10k trail run, and am looking to continue bumping up my mileage. I have learned to change my workout regime to match my current health safely and effectively. I pay even more attention to my nutrition and to how my body is feeling. My stroke has in no way limited me, but has made me a better and smarter athlete. That 50k will sooner or later be mine!